Paris Post War: Art and Existentialism 1945-55

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The Independent Online
A Frenchman must balance his sharp perception of the charming, elusive and evanescent elements in sensory experience against his own personal mental construct. This perhaps explains why artists trained in the climate of Paris, who seek both to lose and to find themselves in art, have a slightly impertinent tendency to consider art as their personal property and to assume responsibility for it before the whole world. They are firmly convinced that art is 'a world that cannot be reduced to reality', as Andre Malraux puts it. This inclination is just as strong in 1950 as it ever was.

In all justice, French painting must be credited with two great achievements in recent years. One is its remarkable proof of vitality during the war (which was not a way of escaping nor forgetting reality but rather of transcending it), when exhibitions of 'young painters', like a secret talisman, aroused the enthusiasm of the younger generation. The other, moving miraculously in the same direction, is the work produced in their old age by

the 'old masters' - Ronault, Bonnard, Matisse and Picasso - who seem to be carrving out a sublime and timeless dialogue.

From an article on painting in Paris by Andre Chastel, Magazine of Art (Washington) May 1950, Vol. 43 No. 5

Paris Post War: Art and Existentialism 1945-55 at the Tate Gallery until 5 September.

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